Columbus Visit Draws Fresh Perspectives
26 Sep 2023
Where do you go when searching for ideas and strategies to help your community flourish?
The Indiana Chamber 2022 Community of the Year isn’t a bad place to start.
That’s exactly what officials with the Hancock Economic Development Council and City of Greenfield recently did on a visit to Columbus, Indiana. The Hancock County contingent joined dozens of other leaders from across Indiana for the event, which consisted of a Redevelopment Association of Indiana meeting, presentations from Columbus officials and state legislative experts, and a site tour.
Presenters discussed projects, developments and initiatives in the city, as well as how they’re accomplishing them and how they’re adapting when necessary.
Multiple lessons emerged from the presentations, including the importance of stakeholder engagement, bringing together varied perspectives, active listening, taking action, and adopting a unified approach.
Speakers discussed how they reimagined places in Columbus, like the city’s riverfront, which is slated for improvements like captivating appearances, overlook areas, a trail, and fish passage. The upgrades will improve safety, quality of life, environmental protection, and connectivity.
Columbus leaders view downtown as the city’s “living room” belonging to everyone, and strive to make it inviting, walkable, dynamic, sustainable and attractive.
The city also has an Office of Downtown Development, which sets out to provide an active, easy experience for outside, first-time or seasoned businesses looking to operate. The office shared strategies for drawing more visitors to downtown, like text marketing, engaging with apartment communities, and getting information on weekend activities to hotels in the city.
Presenters emphasized effective methods for accomplishing projects as well, like tax increment financing, working with property owners, working with state agencies, and coordinating with neighboring developments.
Other conversation highlights included the impact a successful and community-minded business like Cummins has on the community, and how Columbus’ redevelopment commission has driven many of the successes in the city.
Attorneys with Indianapolis-based Ice Miller explained new state legislation on tax increment financing for single-family housing, as well as a new Indiana Finance Authority housing infrastructure revolving loan fund program.
“You could see lightbulbs going off above people’s heads all day,” HEDC Communications Director Mitchell Kirk said. “I’m excited to see how officials apply what they learned. With Hancock County and its communities growing as quickly as they are, we’re going to need all the knowledge and perspectives we can get. We’re very grateful to the Redevelopment Association of Indiana and City of Columbus for providing the program.”